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October 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 7)

Antidepressants double suicidal behaviour in teenagers
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Antidepressants double suicidal behaviour in teenagers image

Antidepressants double the chances of suicidal behaviour and aggression in children and adolescents, a new study has found. Although the drugs are not supposed to be given to teenagers, around 1.63m under-18s in the US and 100,000 in the UK are regularly taking Prozac.

The drugs don’t seem to affect adults in the same way, but this could be because most studies are paid for by the manufacturer and adverse reactions can ‘disappear’, say researchers from the Nordic Cochrane Centre, an independent review body.

They discovered the risk among the under-18s when they reanalysed 70 drug studies that involved 18,562 people, around half of whom were taking an antidepressant, usually an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor).

Children and adolescents taking an antidepressant were more than twice as likely to suffer suicidal behaviour and aggression—such as hostility and assault—than someone of a similar age not taking one of the drugs.

The reviewers say their findings merely endorse what is already known. Suspicions that the SSRIs could increase the risk of suicide first surfaced in 1990, but it was not until the BBC’s Panorama programme highlighted the problem in 2004 that it became more widely known.

The researchers note that while the website of one of the drug companies listed the deaths associated with its antidepressant, no mention was made of suicides.


(Source: BMJ, 2016; 352: i65)

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